Wall-E Blu-ray review

The film isn't perfect, but it sure is beautiful. And the extras package is quite brilliant...

WALL-E: a machine with a (possibly overbearing) message...

In general, I like this movie, but for me it doesn’t quite hit the high notes that The Incredibles and Ratatouille both stuck. To my mind there are a number of subtle but important elements that don’t quite work, or might have been pitched differently.

This is a shame because the opening sequences where we get to meet Wall-E and his only friend, a cockroach called ‘bug’, are utterly entrancing. Wall-E is a trash compacting robot left to clear up the mess left by humanity who left the planet a complete mess. So long has passed since then that all the other robots have stopped functioning, but Wall-E has developed a personality and scavenges spare parts to keep working.

Then one day a spaceship lands and releases a beautifully streamlined futuristic robot, called Eve, who Wall-E immediately falls completely in love with. Eve’s mission is to find plant life, and so when he gives her a plant she immediately shuts down to await recovery by the ARV (Advanced Return Vehicle). This confuses Wall-E who still finds her fascinating, even though she’s entirely immobile.

The spaceship comes and retrieves Eve, but unwilling to let her go, Wall-E hangs on and is taken into space where the ARV eventually docks with a huge space cruiser, the Axiom.

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And this is where the fine thread that is Wall-E starts to unravel for me. The Axiom is full of a wonderful menagerie of robots, but none of them are as remotely interesting as Wall-E. But they’re not the only things onboard; there are also degenerated humans who’ve become fat and stumpy riding around in floating chairs.

The problem with these is that it’s difficult to identify one from another, so they don’t really have personalities as such. When the robots are more easily identifiable than the people it seems to unbalance the whole exercise. Also Wall-E becomes the fish-out-of-water on the Axiom, which is fine for a short while but eventually becomes a little tedious.

It turns out that the humans are maintained on the Axiom almost against their will, if they noticed they had one. It’s for Wall-E to get the plant Eve found to the appropriate part of the Axiom to initiate the return journey to Earth. The final sequences are neat, but I don’t think the start, middle and end work as a whole. The rest of the movie never actually lives up to the first 25 minutes, and the supposedly subtle underlying green message is ultimately bludgeoning.

But those things won’t detract, especially a younger audience, from some fantastic animation, sight gags and stunning design work.

The discs Technically it’s much easier to get good results moving a CGI movie to another digital format; you could even re-render the movie at a higher resolution. That said, Wall-E on Blu-ray is actually breathtaking in places, and after a while I started shouting at the screen in frustration, “WHERE IS THE INCREDIBLES?” This is one of at least four discs I’ve seen this year (the others being Sleeping Beauty, Dark Knight and Dr. No) where, if you want to see the true difference that Blu-ray delivers, you need in any film collection.

I prefer the colour and design work of Ratatouille, but the Wall-E transfer is impeccable. The sound is also great, being offered in 5.1 HD DTS. If you want to use this disc as a spatial sound test then check out the scene where the ARV ship docks with the Axiom for gorgeously refined Doppler audio effects.

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Along with the main feature, disc one contains the awesome Tex Avery salute short ‘Presto’ (5 mins), a curious Wall-E spin-off short, Burn-E (7 mins), plus some extra supporting material for the main feature. These include a commentary in Cine-explore mode by Andrew Stanton, the director, and an audio commentary by four technical people who go by the group title of the ‘Pixar’s Geek Squad’. Depending how much of an animation geek you are, that last commentary you’ll either find fascinating or something to be deactivated quickly.

That leaves the entire second disc full to the gunnels with bonus goodies, divided nominally into two subsections ‘Robots’ and ‘Humans’. Actually, these might better be described as ‘kids’ and ‘adults’, because what’s in each is pitched at a particular age group.

For the kids, there is a nice Wall-E interactive story book, a five minute compilation of Wall-E and friends doing sight gags with various objects, some simple games, and a digital reference book of the different robots in the film.

The adult stuff includes four deleted scenes with an explanation to their existence and removal by Andrew Stanton, a series of very nice featurettes about the design, cinematography, music composition and sound design used in this production. The best of these is an 88 minute documentary about Pixar by Lesile Iworks, which has some excellent interviews and content. In this are a number of clips from other Pixar productions in high definition that made my mouth water. Toy Story(s), A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Cars are all covered. Some of these aren’t out on Blu-ray yet, so those are a major but enjoyable tease.

All the featurettes are in HD, acknowledging that this is Blu-ray and not a dumping ground for DVD produced material. There’s a treasure-trove of other stuff including a gallery, 3D set fly-arounds, still galleries, layouts and backgrounds, visual development, and seven trailers. Actually I missed out some things I’m sure, because there is so much. It’s probably one of the most comprehensive extras discs ever, and there is several hours of entertainment to be had here.

My only complaint about the entire package is that they printed the cover using a metallic printing effect, which is entirely obliterated by being inside the plastic sleeve, making the artwork look flat.

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Overall, I think the movie is slightly flawed if highly enjoyable, but the Blu-ray presentation is at a standard that others can only aspire to.

Nice one, Disney and Pixar!

Film:

3 stars
Transfer:
5 stars
Extras:
5 stars

Wall-Et
Wall-E Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk

Rating:

2 out of 5